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The genetic basis of adaptive pigmentation variation in Drosophila melanogaster


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    Present address: Centre for Comparative Genomics, Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

    Sequence data from this article have been deposited into GenBank with accession numbers EF114370-EF114390.

John E. Pool, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, bygn. 10, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. Fax: +45 35321300, E-mail:


In a broad survey of Drosophila melanogaster population samples, levels of abdominal pigmentation were found to be highly variable and geographically differentiated. A strong positive correlation was found between dark pigmentation and high altitude, suggesting adaptation to specific environments. DNA sequence polymorphism at the candidate gene ebony revealed a clear association with the pigmentation of homozygous third chromosome lines. The darkest lines sequenced had nearly identical haplotypes spanning 14.5 kb upstream of the protein-coding exons of ebony. Thus, natural selection may have elevated the frequency of an allele that confers dark abdominal pigmentation by influencing the regulation of ebony.